Bottled wines are dramatically affected by
the environment they are stored in. In fact, proper storage
conditions are so important in ensuring that your wine is
at peak quality when opened, they should be considered the
last unwritten step in the winemaking process.
are more susceptible to poor storage conditions. Generally,
white wines - particularly off-dry wines and champagne - are
more frail than reds. Grape variety can also make a difference;
for example, Cabernet Sauvignon wines are generally more resilient
than Pinot Noirs. However, no matter what the wine, it always
pays to minimize the risks associated with bottle storage:
- Constant temperature is the key. By causing the wine inside
the bottle to expand and contract, swings in temperature rapidly
ruin bottled wine. Ideal cellar temperature is 45 - 55 F (7
- 13 C). At lower temperatures, maturation is slowed, though
more complexity is allowed to develop. Wine could be safely
stored to within a degree or two of freezing, but it would
take decades to develop. On the other hand, wines can be stored
at up to 68 F, where they will mature quite rapidly. Higher
temperatures than this will quickly damage the wine.
- Sunlight and ultraviolet light (ie. fluorescent lamps) are
as bad for wine as excessive heat, but are problems usually
much easier to overcome. Though most wines are protected to
some degree by colored glass bottles, place wines in areas
away from direct light or cover them with a blanket.
- Some degree of humidity is beneficial for long term storage,
to ensure that the exposed end of the cork does not dry out
and allow oxygen into the bottle. Beware of air conditioners,
as they actually suck moisture out of the air. Ideally, relative
humidity should be between 60 - 75%. Humidity higher than
that encourages mould growth in your storage area (not to
mention label deterioration!).
- Wine does not take well to constant movement or vibration
(particularly if there is sediment present), thus a secure
storage space is a must. Don't put your bottles next to the
washing machine, or in a storage area where they will have
to be moved often to reach other items. Secure storage should
also mean storing bottles horizontally, allowing constant
contact of the wine with the cork, preventing the cork from
drying out and letting air in.
check of all environmental influences in or near your storage
area is advised. For example, areas such as garages or attics,
which seem cool, may be subject to temperature fluctuations
due to lack of insulation. A good option is to insulate a
small room, large cupboard or area under the stairs, void
of any heat sources like a water pipe or a boiler. Periodically
checking the area with a thermometer is a good idea. A good
way to do this is to put a floating thermometer in a one litre
jug of water, and leave it covered in the space for 24 hours.
This will let the water stabilize to the ambient temperature,
and give you an accurate reading.
for the ageing of your wine in an environment which helps
to preserve its finer qualities will pay big dividends in
ensuring that you will have the best wine possible to enjoy
with friends and family.